Last June, Cancer Research UK raised over £50,000 by auctioning off a set of never-before-seen photographs of David Bowie. Charity Digital News spoke to Stephanie Maddox, Local Fundraising Manager, about the advantages of online auctions as a fundraising method, the mechanics of how it worked and what her tips are for raising more money online.
What does your role at Cancer Research UK consist of?
My role is quite varied. I’m a Local Fundraising Manager in West London, and there’s about 65 of us in similar roles all around the country. The value that I work with is a target raised from £10,000 to £80,000.
We work on loads of different levels of fundraising partnerships to achieve this – from corporates, staff and committees. Our fundraising events range from putting on a Christmas ball, a seasonal fair, speed dating, coffee mornings – the initiative could really take on any form.
Cancer Research UK recently raised funds by auctioning off a set of never-before-seen photographs of David Bowie; how did you come by such an amazing item?
It’s important to highlight that this wasn’t a Cancer Research-led event; it was an ‘in aid of’ event. Susie Howard, who had known David Bowie and the photographers personally, approached us directly to set up an event.
She had contacts who could set up the venue and handle social media, all free of charge. All she needed was some assistance with the auction, which made this a no-brainer for us.
The photographers, Chalkie Davies, Tony McGee, and Denis O’Regan, knew David Bowie quite well – one of them had been on tour with him, and the others had worked with him in the past. They had a number of rare never-before-published images that they were more than happy to donate to Cancer Research UK.
Do you often hold auctions as a method of fundraising?
We’ve held numerous auction events over the last few years; most recently, we held one in London and another took place at a Christmas ball. This was the first auction that I personally executed.
What made this unique, however, was that this David Bowie auction was solely an online auction – it wasn’t tied to an event.
The auction was held as a silent online auction – is that right?
Yes, the images were shown in a free exhibition on Heddon Street where people could go and see them. During the exhibition, we advertised for those interested in owning one of the rare photographs to bid on our dedicated charity page on Givergy.com, which is the platform we used to run the auction.
What made you choose Givergy as your auction platform?
It’s definitely well-suited as an auction platform for non-profits. Because they are one of the most affordable on the market, Givergy enabled us to keep more of the proceeds from the auction. It’s all in aid of charity, so you don’t want a company taking away from the funds that you raise.
What worked well about Givergy for this particular auction?
With Givergy, we were given just one contact to liaise with, so it wasn’t like we were going between different people to set things up. We just had one dedicated Account Manager, who was amazing, and that meant conversations didn’t get confused.
That, for a start, was very helpful. The process to get the auction set up was also really simple. We just gave them the images and the details, everything that needed to be on the auction, and they swiftly put it all up for us. Givergy started off the auction on a Tuesday evening, and they also ended it for us on a Sunday evening, when obviously we weren’t at work, so it was really helpful to have them take care of that. This enabled us to deal with the exhibition and clients, while they handled everything on the auction side.
On top of this, they were really flexible, which made working out any last minute details very efficient. During the event we wanted some prices to be changed and some wording to be altered, and we could ask them and they’d sort it right away. They were really reactive and provided great support.
How much did you eventually raise?
We raised £44,899.40 through the auction alone, plus we sold catalogues at the exhibition, bringing the total raised to about £50,000. (In fact, you can still purchase one here). We had hundreds of bidders who took part. The auction really took off when we made it onto the official David Bowie Facebook page, which brought in a lot more people.
I think it’s important to use up-to-date platforms and different methods for fundraising in general. There are lots of charities out there with important causes, and if you’re working for a charity that’s close to your heart, you want to make sure that you’re doing the best you can and not just sitting back and letting it come to you.
We’re raising money for a purpose; we want to make sure that we’re seeking out the best opportunities that we can to help that cause and Givergy enabled us to do that.
What would be your top tip for raising more money online?
Making it onto the David Bowie Facebook page really gave us a lot of extra momentum, so I would say have a strong social media presence. If you’ve got a strong social media, that’s going to help a lot, because it’s all online and you can have an online presence everywhere.
In addition, it’s so important to seek out the best online platform for your charity. Make sure you do your research! There are a few options out there, but find the one that will not only save you money but will help you elevate your charity globally.
For more information about the Givergy fundraising platform for auctions, prize draws and buy-it-now items, visit the Givergy website.
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